by RIP RENSE
(Sept. 29, 2005)
Less Than Satisfying Encounters With Humanity, or LTSEWH, for um,
short. All names have been included whenever possible to ensure fullest
LTSEWH # 1:
She was luxuriously,
pullulatingly young, every pore popping with burgeoning biochemistry, hair
a-bounce with insouciance, owning the world as she stomped down a Westwood
She was, also, naturally,
on a cell phone. All the best people are..
The sidewalk was no wider than Rhode Island, empty as a Tavis Smiley
interview. I loped along in my middle-aged manner, Grateful Dead
cap conspiring with graying hair to mark me as spent, used, irrelevant,
Naturally, I was not on a
Miss Bloom of Youth 2005
was headed straight for me, of course, puking up clipped vowels and snapped
consonants. If she had noticed me at all, her subconscious had already
labeled me something on the order of oh, a Starbucks cup.
I expected all this, of
What I did not expect
was that she would abruptly turn her head 180 degrees and look exactly
behind her as she yapped into that cell phone (undoubtedly to another noble
young person destined to mold society in compassionate, important ways.)
Yes, that’s correct. Head
turned backward, body moving forward. Oh, the torque twist of it all!
When head swiveled back
around, Bloomy found herself square in front of Grateful Dead Cap-man, about to collide. I was
confronted, close-up, with those unapologetically peeled lips and honking cellular
Did she make an effort to step
aside? Did she stop and say, “Oh, sorry!” Did she smile and laugh
Does Tavis Smiley ever
ask a deep question?
I did the sidestepping
here. I’m a born sidestepper (inside joke for Deadheads.) But as I did so, I
lowered my voice to a husky growl. No---I didn’t have to lower it at all. It
just came out that way automatically, the tone color dictated by the
Oh, the audacity of a
walking Starbucks Cup, daring to speak disrespectfully to someone whose
whole fabulous life lay before her, who is richer and freer than most kings
and queens who have ever lived, who. . .(cue “We Are the World.”)
Thank goodness Bloomy had
the character to not stand for such insult.
“No! YOU watch it!” she
yelled from behind.
Yes, this is a girl on
the way up.
LTSEWH # 2:
Inquirer Mind Doesn’t Want to Know
I phoned the Philadelphia
Inquirer in order to follow up on a story pitch. I had spoken to the
features editor a few days earlier, and he had advised that I call back.
Trouble was, I couldn’t
remember his name. Well, I remembered the first name, and part of the last.
Michael Rosen-something-or-other. I must have spoken with dozens of Michael
Rosen-something-or-others through the years.
I “navigated” through a
recorded “menu” in order to find the Inquirer operator. (Ahoy, matey! I’ll
have a BLT!) My toenails grew no
more than a quarter-inch during this time. Then a gravel-voice asked if he
could help me, the invitation sounding less than convincing.
“Yes, I hope so,” I said.
“I need to speak to your features editor, and---“
“What’s the name?”
“It’s Michael, and the
last name is Rosen-something-or-other. I’m sorry, I don’t recall the
full last name, but if---”
“I need a name, sir.”
I explained again what I
had just explained.
“I’ll transfer you to
that department, sir.”
If the reader guessed
that I was promptly transferred to a recording, the reader is most clever!
I phoned the operator
back. That is, I phoned the “menu” back, and “navigated” again, and my
toenails grew another quarter-inch before Gravel Voice answered.
“Hi again,” I said. “You
transferred me to a recording. I’m trying to reach your features editor,
whose name is Michael, and the last name starts with ‘Rosen.’ There can’t be
more than one such---”
“I have no such name,
“That’s funny, because I
just spoke to him last week. Uh. . .well, can’t you just look up the name of
your features editor?”
“No, sir, I can’t do
“You can’t do that?”
“Uh. . .Why is that?”
“We are not able to do
“You are not able to do
that. But you’re the operator. You're supposed to be able to do that. You mean you have no list of who works
“That’s incredible. Don’t
you ever wish you had such a list, so as to help people who phone asking for
“You know, this is really
interesting. Here I am, calling long-distance with a simple request, yet you
are not only unable to help, you are expending great amounts of energy to
not help. For that same amount of effort, you might have actually
helped! Aren’t you interested in trying to do your job efficiently?”
“Well, then I would guess
you are an idiot.”
LTSEWH # 3: Bed ‘n’
We were dining. It was
early. The sun had already barged into the sky uninvited, while I clung to
the residual calm of a rare good night’s sleep.
We were in John O’ Groats,
which is hallowed on the West Side as a fine, homey place to have
breakfast---primarily because there really are no other fine, homey places
to have breakfast. I mean, Denny’s?
We sat easily at our little table, which was covered with a fine, homey blue-and-white checked
cloth, and ordered. We opened the L.A. Times. No worries for the next
half-hour---just good pancakes and too much mediocre journalism. And then---
“BALBOA. YEAH. MY
FRIEND’S DAD’S GOT A BOAT THERE. THERE’S (sic) ISLANDS THAT ARE REALLY COOL.
LIDO ISLAND. BALBOA. YEAH.”
I lowered the paper
slowly and peered at him. He was at the next table. He was the lucky
recipient of stellar genes. Big, strapping, rangy. Six-foot-five, built like
a champion swimmer---broad at the shoulders, lean all the way down. About
25. Wearing some of those weird gigantic shorts and vaguely athletic
amorphous pullover shirt-like-thing. Chiseled ectomorphic features. Ape
hands. Dog eyes.
His date was the
American ideal: blonde, petite, mammary glands aimed high. He carried on
and on and on about myriad ways that he had discovered to keep himself
entertained: boats, cars, restaurants, drinks, and boats and cars and
restaurants and drinks. His voice was a miracle of acoustics. Here inside a
crowded, cacophonous restaurant, he pierced the air as if shouting through a
I’ll give him this: he
made each bite an adventure. Do I manage to enjoy the pancakes, or is my
little attempt to have a peaceful breakfast completely ruined by Gargantuan
As it turned out:
neither. For as soon as Monster Child had finished shoveling most of a large
omelette into his blast-furnace gut, he declared, and I am pretty close to
quoting this one accurately from memory:
“I’M HORNY. SITTING HERE
LOOKING AT YOU MAKES ME HORNY. BUT I’M NOT DOING ANYTHING ABOUT IT. THAT’S
CONTROL. THAT’S REAL CONTROL.”
He was not being um,
light-hearted in this er, romantic overture. His tone was as serious as if
he were disclosing a visit from God.
The blonde and her
optimistic bazooms got up and promptly fled the scene.
“DON’T YOU WANT YOUR
PURSE?” said Jackass, who then sat for a few minutes and enjoyed the rest
of his omelette. Quietly.
I’ll never think about
blondes the same way again.
LTSEWH # 4: Daytime
I had parked, and was
making the dreadfully functional journey from car to market. Those 50 or 60
steps we are all doomed to walk thousands of times, back and forth, back and
forth. I often ponder whether those accumulated hours, days---years,
perhaps?---spent on those walks might be put to some supplementary purpose.
myself away. That’s correct, I don’t own a cell phone.
But this, you see, frees
me up to notice things. Cell phone yackers walk around as if they are at
home in the living room, oblivious to the gorgeous, vivacious world around
Why, a person on a cell
phone probably would not have remotely noticed, for instance, the woman
bending over to retrieve something from the back seat of her car. Leaning in
through the opened rear passenger door. And I do mean “rear.”
Bending so far over that
her mini-skirt hiked. . .all the way up to her waist.
It was about 2 p.m., but
the moon was full.
Luckily, she was young
and well-toned. Fit as a fiddle, really. Uh-one, and uh-two. . .
I looked away for a
moment, to spare her embarrassment. Or em-bare-ass-ment. But then I
noticed that she didn’t seem to care. She just kept bending, and fussing
around with something in the back seat. And the moon kept shining.
If I were a werewolf,
there would have been a serious problem.
No, she did not care a
whit whether I---or anyone---was viewing.
I forget, you see, that
most modern young citizens are unabashed about displaying their rumdadums.
Witness amazons’---er, women’s---professional volleyball.
I stopped for a moment,
though, because, well, if you are male, you really don’t have a choice. And
the show just went on and on. For a second, my brain was flooded with
primeval chemicals which, if they could speak, would have said something
like, “Uh! Uh!!” Then reason managed to feebly assert itself, along with
age, and I realized that, well, there was nothing more to be done.
Except walk on to the
market. Feeling an ass. Feeling like an ass, I mean.
LTSEWH # 5: Turn,
To everything, turn turn
turn, there is a season. And in this case, the season for turns was in full bloom.
This little tale concerns
a perfectly normal, unfettered, innocuous, gentle right turn into a parking
Please picture this. It’s
worth the trouble.
I am slowing down to make
a right turn into the driveway of a large parking lot. There are cars parked
along the street I am driving on, just as there are cars parked along every
street in Los Angeles at all times, and will be for the rest of eternity.
Another car is
waiting to make a left turn from oncoming traffic into the same
The car waiting to make the left simply waits for me to make my right,
then, provided the coast is clear, turns and follows me into the parking
Ah, but this is L.A.! A
place where no one understands four-way stops. Where no one pulls way
out into the intersection while waiting to make left turns. A place where
the mayor says “indefensible” when he means “defenseless.” Where TeeVee
anchors talk about “tough drives” when freeways stop dead as a George W.
Bush sentence. Where all driving has become as predictable as a terrorist
attack. Come to think of it, that’s a good analogy.
As I slowed down to turn,
signal flashing proudly, a car parked on my right suddenly pulled away from the
curb directly in front of me! I mean twenty feet away. Just cut right
out. Zoom! Outtatheway, Rense! Because I had already severely decelerated for
old-fashioned, if not archaic safety reasons, I was able to brake, lean on
the horn, and barely avoid automotive intercourse.
The driver of the darting
car, of course, gave me the finger. As he or she sped away.
End part one. Begin part
As I sat there, stupefied
that this alleged human had just so insanely---deliberately?---pulled in
front of me, the car waiting to make that left pulled a screeching, illegal
U-turn directly in front of oncoming traffic---and directly in front of me. Missing my bumper by, oh, the distance between NBC News anchor Brian
Williams's ears. Right, an inch-and-a-half.
In the end, I wretchedly finished my
law-abiding, careful right turn into the parking lot, looking right and left
faster than tennis spectators---and up, in case of falling airplanes---and
then sat there, embracing a single thought:
“This is the life.”
LTSEWH #6: Brain
Some LTSEWH's are
momentary, trivial, fleeting, but stick with you like bad Paul McCartney
I might never forget,
then, the well-dressed young woman in a Ralphs Market in Brentwood shopping
with her roommate.
“I’ve never eaten
a frozen dinner in my life!" she said, nothing short of horror in her voice.
Roomie had apparently proposed
stocking up on Swanson's Turkey-and-Gravy feasts, or something.
I say we ship this
privileged diner to India, and leave her naked and penniless in a leper
colony for a few weeks.
Or better yet, New
For more LTSEWH’s, watch
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